Passé Simple

May 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The passé simple is a tense that is only used in writing. It takes the place of the passé composé in novels, newspapers, and other relatively formal forms of writing.
My goal is that you recognize it for what it is as you come across it in your readings. Most of the verbs are easily recognizable in their passé simple forms, but there are a few irregular ones that you won’t recognize.

Rules and charts

For verbs ending in ER (both irregular and regular)
Drop the ER and add the passé simple endings

Parler
Je parlai. Nous parlâmes
Tu parlas. Vous parlâtes
Il parla. Ils parlèrent

Aller (also ends in ER, but irregular in present tense)
J’allai. Nous allâmes
Tu allas. Vous allâtes
Il alla. Ils allèrent

For verbs ending in IR, most RE, voir, and asseoir
Drop the IR and add the passé simple endings

Je finis. Nous finîmes
Tu finis. Vous finîtes
Il finit. Ils finirent

Je descendis. Nous descendîmes
Tu descendis. Vous descendîtes
Il descendit. Ils descendirent

(faire)
Je fis. Nous fîmes
Tu fis. Vous fîtes
Il fit. Ils firent

Venir verbs are irregular

Je vins. Nous vînmes
Tu vins. Vous vîntes
Il vint. Ils vinrent

Now for the list of the way irregular verbs – these ones all have the same endings, but can be hard to figure out which verbs they are because their passé simple forms in no way resemble any other form of the verb.

The endings for these verbs are

Je – us. Nous – ûmes
Tu – us. Vous – ûtes
Il – ut. Ils – urent

And here are the stems
être – f
avoir – e
boire – b
devoir – d
taire – t
lire – l
vivre – véc
plaire – pl
croire – cr

Example
être
Je fus. Nous fûmes
Tu fus. Vous fûtes
Il fut. Ils furent

avoir
J’eus. Nous eûmes
Tu eus. Vous eûtes
Il eut. Ils eurent

lire
Je lus. Nous lûmes
Tu lus. Vous lûtes
Il lut. Ils lurent

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